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An Ongoing Debate: The Nutrition Quest

January 18th, 2014

IMG_2295Weight loss and how to best achieve it has been an ongoing debate for decades. Mankind is constantly searching for the simplest way to “diet” and it seems like new fads are fading in and out of the limelight. We want to look and feel our best and do as little as possible to attain this dream state of being, but what if the answer wasn’t as complicated as these trendy nutrition schemes we see popping up all the time? What if the answer was right in front of our faces? As simple and basic as eating the right portions of real food?! Well, it is. Although all diets have the same positive goal of making people healthier and more cognizant of what they eat, some of these “healthy lifestyles” have holes in their theories…

PALEO

The Paleo Diet tells you to “eat like a cave man”, ok but why? Why would I want to eat like someone who had to literally hunt and gather their food? Humans have evolved to live in an agricultural world, we have worked hard to be able to harvest food so we don’t have to hunt and gather! The Paleo diet cuts out all grains and dairy, tells it’s followers to eat only meat and vegetables with limited fruits. Anyone who’s ever taken a class on nutrition can tell you that carbohydrates are the main source of energy for your entire body and more importantly the single most important organ, your BRAIN. Can the human body derive energy from protein and fat? Sure, but not efficiently and if you follow this diet for too long, you may begin experiencing lower than normal levels of essential vitamins and minerals and keep in mind, the brain relies heavily on glucose.  People who limit or even cut out carbs dehydrate easily and also lack essential vitamins and minerals that we derive from them.  The Paleo diet seems too restrictive for a healthy, functioning body not to mention extremely difficult to stick to.

WEIGHT WATCHERS

The basic premise of Weight Watchers says, eat whatever you want in moderation.  While this may work, and certainly has worked, for many people trying to lose weight it is not the healthiest option.  Weight Watchers allows it’s users to eat anything they want, ANYTHING as long as it doesn’t cause a surplus in “points” for the day.  They simply follow a “calories in, calories out” equation.  So, you’re telling me it’s OK to eat hot dogs and cookies as long as I don’t eat too many?  What?!  Not only does Weight Watchers allow you to eat junk food, but they also advocate “free foods” or “zero point foods”.  Zero Point foods include vegetables and fruits; for example, bananas are a free food according to Weight Watchers.  This is outrageous, considering the nutritional content of one medium banana contains 105 calories, 23 grams of carbs and 14g of sugar!!  Bananas are most certainly very nutritious and are most definitely part of a healthy, balanced diet, but telling someone they don’t “count” toward their daily caloric intake is absurd.  This diet plan does not focus on healthy eating and is a poor choice for those looking to gain perspective on true nutrition.

THE MEDITERRANEAN DIET

Many have adopted the eating habits from the countries that border the Mediterranean Sea in an effort to fight heart disease and attain an overall sense of wellness.  The Mediterranean diet emphasizes heart healthy foods like olive oil, nuts and fishes that contain omega-3 fatty acids.  The majority of calories are derived from legumes, unsaturated fats, fruits and vegetables while red meat and dairy are limited.  Everything the Mediterranean diet allows us to eat is good for us, but may be lacking in the variety we need to maintain a proper balance of vitamins and minerals.  Red meat (and other animal proteins) are severely limited here and although red meat may have gotten a bad rap somewhere along the road it actually contains high levels of the B vitamins that we need for so many of our body’s natural processes. We also must take into account the safety of eating mostly fish as our main source of protein in today’s world.  Healthy fats from nuts and oils are no doubt good for us, but anything high in fat is also extremely high in calories and yields little energy.  Even unsaturated and non trans fats should be eaten in limited amounts.  Heart health is most definitely important to all individuals but this diet may not be able to stand alone as an end all be all solution to overall health.

A combination of all three of these diets may be the answer.  Whole foods are best; eating a wide variety of unprocessed, real foods that contain less than five ingredients and no chemicals in proper portion sizes is by far the healthiest way to live.  Severely limiting a major food group or eating an excess of one will not satisfy your body’s nutritional requirements.  Paleo shows us the importance of lean protein and vegetables, Weight Watchers teaches us about not eating too many calories to lose weight or maintain weight and the Mediterranean diet gives us plenty of heart healthy advice.  Merging bits and pieces of these ideas can provide the building blocks of an amazing diet.

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